My Quilt Making Experience!

This is a "guest post" by my sister, Rachael.

Quilting fabric with musical notes and rainbow colors  on top of table along with strips of fabric

“I put so much work into it, that I’m loathe to give it away.” (I’ve heard this statement before.)

The lightbulb has come on. I now understand.

Last December 26, I was reading about person after person in various groups who had made and gifted a quilt that was not well received. Someone said, “I wish someone would give me a quilt.” Someone else piped up, “Me, too.” And 2017 Quilt gift exchange on Facebook was born, birthed by Allison Ridenhour, to let each of us make and gift a quilt to someone who would surely “appreciate it.”


Well, I signed up and got paired with a wonderful lady, but I was greatly unsure about this feat. I wanted to do it, not so much for someone else, but to FORCE me to actually HAVE to make a quilt. If someone else was going to give me one, for sure, I’d better have one ready to give to her!

Honestly, I’ve only made 2 other quilts in my entire life. My first was a tied quilt when I was a mere 26 years old, and it’s still together down at our church nursery, and the second was a simple quilt made last summer, for my granddaughters, to be used as a “play blanket” on the floor.

Rachael on computer, software on the three dell computer screens on top of the desk covered with reciepts and scrap papers, a speaker laying on its side, a metal cup beyond the keyboard, and papers pinned onto the wall beyond the three screens, the screens having a photo of a quilting pattern designed by the quilted twins.

But, I figured I could fly over to get Becky to help me. And so, that’s what I did.

Rachael cutting black fabric on top of quilting measuring and cutting board. A painting is in the background along with a bookshelf full of quilting books. Cut musical fabric is in the foreground

We flew in on a Monday night red eye flight, and by Tuesday at 8 p.m., we were to the Petersen’s home just outside of Warsaw, Poland. I had taken a nice long nap in the airport, where ended up with a 4 hour layover, so I felt pretty energetic.

Becky greeted me with, “You’ve got to decide on a pattern.” What? That’s only a tiny bit overwhelming, isn’t it?” I mean. I had just walked in the door.

 Honesty, I knew I could sew, but I didn’t want every moment of every day to be spent creating a quilt. I had brought my husband along this trip, and I had heard rumors that sightseeing was on the agenda this year.

I had saved pictures of a few quilts throughout the summer, as I had looked at them, and showed them to Becky, to ask for her advice, as to feasibility, of my sewing abilities, as well as time limitations, as start to finish, we were only going to be at their house for 9 days, and we had several things slated to take up major blocks of time. I simply had to make Tuesday night count.

I had researched my recipient and knew that she was a musician, and Becky assured me that she had plenty of music fabric. Still I brought some more, as I had come across a couple of good pieces during our destashing organization.


Rachael chain piecing: sewing, with a white sewing machine, the black fabric to poka-dot fabric. A previously sewn black fabric is shown sewn to the musical fabic.

Becky dragged out her music fabrics and told me I had to decide whether to use whites or creams or whether to use them both. I knew my recipient loved color, but most of the music fabrics were blacks and whites or blacks and creams. But, back to the pattern. I had to decide. I had to decide. I just HAD to decide. We couldn’t move forward until I picked something. Anything.

Rachael sewing the musical strips with a white sewing machine. The strip of fabric extends beyond the length of the sewing machine

So, I saw this really cool thing where the squares just went up in a diagonal pattern and I thought, “I could do that.” I really love the bargello designs, but knew that I had not the experience or time to do that, so I chose the one that I did. I knew that this pattern could incorporate both the blacks and whites as well as the colors!

Becky ran upstairs to her computer and trusty EQ program and laid it out for me. I didn’t like what I saw and asked for sashing. I felt like bumping each color right next to each other took away from the beautiful designs of each fabric. She had to stop and fix a meal, so she let me play with the design and layout.

On Wednesday, by the time obiad (dinner - at 1 pm) was over with, I had picked my color scheme, deciding to go from white to red to dark, darker and darkest. With the hardest part of the whole project behind me, I went to town.

Becky made me (commando that she is) cut all my own squares and my sashing.

Zoom out of Rachael sewing quilt top. Fabric on white sewing machine. Large amount scrap fabric in the background

First thing she had me do was sew a piece of sashing to all of my squares on one side only. Then using my trusty picture from the computer, I started sewing each one-sided sashed square to another one in the design laid out.

I sewed each row of 8 sashed blocks, moving one block off the end of each row to the beginning of the next, giving me the diagonal design that I wanted.

That took up Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.  Just after lunch, I believe I was able to lay out the quilt top and take a picture of it on the floor. I had decided to use a printed piano keys piece for my border. I thought, “Another 30 minutes and this girl is finished with this quilt.”

Rachael almost done quilting the top: previous fabric was clearly put together with music fabric and pokadot fabric pattern

I couldn’t have been more wrong. I got the piano keys fabric out and the scale was all wrong. The piano keys were awesome, but they were much too small. I knew I couldn’t use them. I was destined to making my own piano key border.

Somewhere in there, we ran to Emilka, the local store that had the ribbon we would need for the piano keys themselves and I began sewing my piano key border like a “mad woman.” I had a goal to accomplish, and nothing was going to stop me…

That is…. Except ‘vacation.” (And I didn’t even WANT to go…”I’d rather sew,” I mumbled to myself.)

Rachael's piano key border quilt pattern at the very beginning. The white fabric for the keys is on the white sewing machine and Rachael is pulling them through the sewing machine

Friday we were gone from 6 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. to the Wolf’s Lair, where our husbands reveled in WW II. Becky and I tried to be appreciative tourists, and enjoyed spending the day doing “holiday things.” I got 6000 Fitbit steps without taking a single real step just in the car ride alone home, as the road was so bumpy.

Saturday morning I worked hard at finishing up my piano keys borders (We'll be doing a tutorial on the details in how this was made) and then attached the cornerstones, which I had appliqued a musical instrument to.. (Another learning curve, as I had never done any applique work before.)

Rachael pressing open border for the piano keys quilt, with a green iron on top of a colorful owl ironing board

We sandwiched it in there after lunch on Saturday, and then I started the quilting. I decided to just Stitch in the Ditch for the entire thing, creating a kind of puffy look, by not stitching through the beautiful music squares. (Stitching in the ditch means stitching “beside” the ditch” actually, and I was using black thread on black fabric, and I was having a hard time seeing!)

Then I finished the black and moved to the white border, which wasn’t a whole lot easier on the eyes.

Rachael sewing the piano border of the musical quilt on the white sewing machine, scrap fabric piled up in the background behind the sewing machine and sewing material on the opposite side of the sewing machine with repsect to Rachael

I did sew on top of each piano key, however, to create the actual piano look.  It was a tedious act of love-- the starting and stopping of sewing on top of each 5” piano key.

Rachael trimming up the border of the musical quilt on top of a wooden table, Rachael standing in front of a glass door cracked open and a thermometer on the wall behind her above a dressor

Sunday after church and dinner and throughout the evening, I finished the quilting, then sewed on the binding with the machine. At 8:30 p.m., we popped it into the washing machine, for the first round of washing and color catching.

Needless to say, I didn’t start it until Wed. morning and was done by Sunday night, but, I was still pretty attached. I had never made a quilt with quite so many pieces before.

And I like how it came out.

Rachael putting on binding around the piano key border of the musical quilt

I brought back some extra pieces, In case I feel like I can make another one for me or my loved ones, since we’re all pretty musical in our family, as well!

It was fun. It’s not perfect, but it’s beautiful!

BREAKDOWN of time:

Planning: 3.5 hours (picking pattern, looking at fabrics, laying it out on EQ and fiddling with color choices on EQ; during that time I also learned how to scan in my fabrics into EQ, as well.)

Cutting squares and sashing – 2 hours (actually probably not more than 1 hour, but honestly, I don’t remember, and I’m pretty slow at this part) 

Sewing – 4 hours for quilt top

Piano key border – 6-8 hours

Creating Appliques for Cornerstones – 2 hours

Backing – 2 hours to pick it out, decide what to use, change my mind 3x and then cut it and sew it together as a pieced backing and press it.

Pressing – 2 hours, as I had to press open between each piano key to get it to lie flat. I also had to press the entire quilt when finished before I sandwiched. I also pressed before I connected any seams.

Sandwiching – 15 minutes

Quilting – 6 hours

Binding – 1 hour

Washing – 2:10 (machine did it, so I don’t really get any credit.)

Sitting around and reveling that “I really did it” – 2 hours while thinking of what to work on next!

Added by Becky -

And now, if YOU, the reader, need something to help finish up your project, please feel free to check out what goodies my sis has for you!



Becky Petersen8 Comments